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Programming maths games in Scratch

13:39 JEcomputing 23 Comments Category : , , , , ,

Having used the programming software Scratch a lot recently I have come to realise just how much it compliments work done in maths. I believe it really helps develop key mathematical concepts such as logical reasoning as well as more obvious, specific skills, such as reading coordinate positions. With this in mind and after reading this excellent site by @BaggiePr,  I have been helping some year 5s with making their own times tables games.

We began by playing some games that I had created myself such as this number bonds game, this subtraction game and finally this 4x table game.  In their Kagan groups and with talk partners, the children then spent quite a substantial amount of time analysing these games in depth. I really wanted them to develop a clear understanding of the key programming concepts used to create them before starting to plan and then ultimately, make their own. Having uploaded some games to my Scratch account, we then clicked on the "see inside" button to look at the programming scripts used to create each game. The children also had paper based copies of the scripts to look at and make notes on. We looked at the similarities and differences within each game and identified the common structure running throughout each game as thus:

The player presses the green flag ----- the sprite (character) welcomes the player to the game ----- the variable(s) such as score or lives are set ----- a question is asked ------ the player types in their answer ------ the sprite responds accordingly by saying (either through text or sound) that it is correct or incorrect (selection) ------ the variable(s) changes according to the players response (selection) ------ the sprite asks the next question - the process is repeated (repetition)

I then explained the 3 main programming concepts involved, relating this to the pupils' experiences of playing popular games such as Flappy birds.

I explained this as;

1. VARIABLES - i.e. the thing which changes - this could be the player's score (either up or down), the number of lives left, the level the player is on etc. There may be a number of these depending on the complexity of the game.

2. SELECTION - i.e. what happens when the player does something. So in this instance, If the player types the answer x the score goes up by 1 and the quiz master says "that is correct" or else the score goes down -1 and the quiz master says "that is incorrect."

3. REPETITION - i.e. a part of the code which is repeated. Programmers in Scratch, often used a forever block to do this, so as to shorten the amount of code needed. Here is an example...

After "decomposing" (breaking down) a number of these scripts and after I was sure that the pupils had a good understanding of these three main programming concepts, we then identified the specific programming blocks used and where to find them from. This didn't take very long as before christmas the pupils had used Scratch to make their own animations with me.

The KS2 PoS for Computing highlights the importance of decomposition:

I then asked pupils to plan their own maths game, based on the ones that I had shown them. Once planned, the pupils then applied their knowledge of how these games were made as they set about making their own. Some, more advanced pupils even added extra bits of code that I showed them, such as changing to a different background when the player answers a question correct, by using a "broadcast" block.

Overall, I was really impressed with the pupils efforts and in particular how they really developed their understanding of the main programming concepts used to make games such as these. I think it helped that many of the children already spend a lot of time playing games and were able to relate and transfer this game playing experience to making their own.

Below is a video which goes through the process of making a times table game in Scratch (version 1.4), which will be useful to watch before teaching it to pupils...

Finally, please have a look at some of the games they made by clicking on the school blog here I'm sure the children themselves would be really pleased if you took the time to leave any constructive comments about their work.

If you would like any staff training on using Scratch or would like me to deliver a similar project with your pupils please check out my website for more details and use the contact page to get in touch.



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